To: Dame Melanie Dawes (chief executive at Ofcom)

Label media with sexual abuse warnings

The presenting issue is the lack of a specific content warning for depictions of, or gestures to, childhood sexual abuse in media.

There are content warnings for sexual violence, distress, and violation of human dignity. Childhood sexual abuse doesn't fit neatly into any one of these labels.

Ofcom have a duty under their own broadcasting code to protect consumers of media from harm and offence. The harm caused by unexpected, unlabeled triggering content is devastating and leads to panic attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares in people who have experienced this trauma in their childhood.

One clear content warning category for childhood sexual abuse is needed and should be enforced across all media from TV broadcasts and radio shows to streaming services. Enforcement should be undertaken by Ofcom and its Broadcasting Code be amended.

Why is this important?

I am a firm believer in freedom of speech, expression and accessibility for all. However, freedom from responsibility shouldn't exist. Therefore a content warning on media is the responsibility of both the creators and regulators of said content.

The reason others should involve themselves in this topic is because according to the NCPCC (2021), 1 in 20 children have experienced some form of sexual abuse. It's estimated that 3.1 million adults, 18-74, were sexually abused as children, before the age of 16 (ONS, 2020). It's likely you might know someone who survived sexual abuse as a child. It's likely you don't even know that you know someone who has survived abuse. Not everyone who was abused can be captured in statistics.

I say all of this to say anyone with a traumatic past, of whom there are many, could be harmed by content that isn't correctly and specifically labeled. We need labels so we're in an informed position to decide whether we want to consume any given piece of media. We need this information so we can decide if consuming the media will result in us having a panic attack, a flashback, or an intrusive return of memories.